The Rick DiPietro era is over for the Islanders. They will place the former No. 1 overall pick and franchise goaltender on waivers Tuesday for the purpose of buying out the remainder of his contract, Newsday has learned.
DiPietro, 31, will receive a compliance buyout, meaning that the $1.5 million the Islanders owe him for each of the next 16 years will not count against the team's salary cap.
General manager Garth Snow, who informed DiPietro of the buyout Monday night, told Newsday: "It is an extremely tough decision to use the compliance buyout on Rick's contract. His drive to win games and compete at the highest level for the New York Islanders was never questioned. With Rick back at 100 percent health, we wish him nothing but the best as he continues to pursue his career."
The buyout of DiPietro, who did not return messages seeking comment, ends one of the longest, strangest athlete-team relationships in sports history.
Mike Milbury selected DiPietro first overall in the 2000 draft, and the confident teenager from the Boston area immediately jumped into an Islanders uniform.
After bouncing between the NHL and AHL before the 2004-05 lockout, DiPietro became the team's No. 1 goaltender in 2005-06 and a personal favorite of owner Charles Wang. Snow, the new GM, decided to sign DiPietro to an unprecedented 15-year contract, worth $67.5 million, on Sept. 12, 2006.
But before a full season had elapsed on the new deal, injuries had begun to chip away at DiPietro's skills and confidence. He suffered two concussions at the end of the 2006-07 season and required hip surgery, beginning a long grind of hip and knee problems, several of which required surgery.
He also needed surgery to repair broken facial bones after a brief fight with Penguins goalie Brent Johnson on Feb. 2, 2011. DiPietro played 26 games in 2010-11, more than in any other year after 2007-08. He totaled 50 games in the past five seasons.
He began the abbreviated 2012-13 season in full health as the backup to Evgeni Nabokov but played in only three games before Snow and coach Jack Capuano had seen enough. DiPietro was waived Feb. 22 and sent to Bridgeport, where he played 18 games.
It is believed that Snow informed DiPietro that he would be bought out before the summer began. Snow tried this past week to swap DiPietro's onerous contract for another, to at least bring in a useful player and allow his trade partner to buy out DiPietro. After finding no takers through Sunday's NHL draft, Snow put an end to DiPietro's 13-year run on Long Island.
It is not known whether DiPietro will be able to catch on with another NHL team, or whether he wants to. The Islanders will be paying him until the 2028-29 season, meaning his association with the team will end up spanning nearly 30 years.